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'He's a God-like figure': All Blacks anxious of Diego Maradona effect on Pumas on eve of crucial Tri-Nations clash

(Photo by Handout/Richard Heathcote - World Rugby via Getty Images)

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The All Blacks can’t bear to think about a rare third straight defeat as the Pumas look to “do it for Diego” in Saturday night’s Tri Nations crunch match in Newcastle.


Coveted silverware is on the line at McDonald Jones Stadium and New Zealand captain Sam Cane wasn’t beating about the bush when describing the mood in camp following back-to-back losses to Australia and Argentina.

“The last two games; the feeling is just horrible. There’d be nothing worse than feeling that again heading into the summer,” Cane said ahead of the All Blacks’ last Test of 2020.

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Sam Cane speaks to media ahead of Pumas v All Blacks rematch
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Sam Cane speaks to media ahead of Pumas v All Blacks rematch

“The pressure that we’re under as a team, we’re using that in a really positive way to drive us.

“There is a slightly different mood; there’s been a bit of edge, a wee bit of almost grumpiness throughout the week.

“The guys from the leadership group are making sure things are spot on. It’s sort of like we’re going in there to do a job and hopefully come up with a result.”

The All Blacks haven’t endured three consecutive defeats this century, not since 1998 in fact.


If they do again, the Pumas will be in the box seat to claim their most significant trophy ever entering the final match of the tournament against the Wallabies on Saturday week.

On the flip side, the All Blacks can secure the Tri Nations with a bonus-point victory – by out-scoring the Pumas by three tries or more.

“Everyone in the squad is hurting but a lot of us that went out and played (in the historic loss to Argentina), get the opportunity to right some wrongs, put some pride back in the jersey, is good for us so let’s take it,” Cane said on Friday.


A win for the unbeaten Pumas would leave the South Americans needing only a bonus point, from a loss of seven points or less to the Wallabies, to claim the trophy.

And Cane has no doubt the passionate and inspired underdogs will be extra motivated following the death this week of Argentine legend Diego Maradona.

“He’s one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest. He was the footballer of the century I’ve been told,” Cane said.

“Knowing the Argentinian people, he’s viewed as a God-like figure over there. It’s always sad when a great sportsman or woman passes away, so I’m sure it’ll be a bit of a driving factor for them.”

The Wallabies will be watching the game with interest.

With all three teams tied on six competition points, the preferred result for the Wallabies on Saturday night would be a draw.

In the event of that unlikely scenario, the next-best outcome for Australian fans is a tight contest without any bonus points accrued by either the All Blacks or Pumas.

That would leave the Wallabies, the tournament outsiders because of their poor points differential, needing “only” a bonus-point win over the Pumas in Sydney to secure the title.


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